Fall lawn seeding tips

Late summer has been very hard on many local fescue lawns.  Brown patch fungus and an August with periods of high heat and less than normal rainfall resulted in the need for overseeding for many homeowners. September is here and is the best month to overseed and repair a fescue lawn.  Here are some tips that will help.

Prepare the soil

Fescue lawns needing total renovation often require seed bed preparation.  How well you prepare the seed bed can determine your lawn’s health from now on.  Prepare a well-drained, nutrient-rich, well-turned seed bed at least 4 to 6 inches deep for the seed.  Lawns needing only spot seeding or general overseeding don’t require such drastic soil preparation.

Choose seed

Tall fescue seed blends are the best choice for our area. Mixes or blends containing several newer tall fescue varieties allow you to take advantage of differing strengths of each variety.  Good seed costs a little more but is usually worth it since it contains far fewer weed seeds in the mix.  Avoid seed mixes containing other seed types- such as perennial ryegrass.

Overseed the lawn

Here is a short list of steps to follow:

• Mow the lawn or area needing reseeding short, to 1 to1.5-inch height.

• Water the soil if necessary to moisten the soil and make it easier to incorporate fertilizer and seed

• Core aerate or verticut to allow good soil to seed contact.  Don’t forget to flag sprinkler heads to avoid damage to an irrigation system.  For small areas you can simply use a rake to rough up the soil to create a seedbed.

• Sow seed uniformly.  Many verticutters have seed hoppers on the front which apply seed as you go.   Use 6 to 8 pounds per 1,000 square feet if repairing large, killed-out areas. Use half-rate (4 to 5 pounds) if trying to thicken a thin lawn or for seeding in shady areas.

• Fertilize with 1 pound nitrogen per 1,000 square feet or a lawn starter fertilizer at the rate recommended on the bag.

• Water in the seed and fertilizer.

• Topping any newly planted areas with mulch will help save moisture, prevent erosion and keep soil from crusting.  Good mulches include weed-free, aged straw and hay at one bale per 1,000 square feet.  More isn’t better. Excess mulch smothers new grass. 

• Do not use broadleaf weed herbicides for one month before seeding, or after seeding until the new grass has been mowed three times.

• Do not use crabgrass preventers before seeding or after seeding until the new grass seedlings are well established

Keep seed moist

Remember, grass seed can’t germinate without moisture and this is where many new lawns fail.  Newly germinated grass seedlings die quickly if they dry out.  So, after you’ve finished planting, soak the seed bed to a depth of several inches. Then keep the seed bed moist with frequent, light sprinklings—so you don’t disturb the seeds or young growth.  You may have to water gently several times a day if the weather gets warm or windy. Wean the lawn from supplemental water by progressively watering less frequently after full germination and as the plants mature. 

Click to view the publication Planting a Home Lawn for more information